OU professor recipient of grant from the Simons Foundation Fellows Program in Theoretical Physics

May 14th, 2013
A University of Oklahoma physics professor is the recipient of a grant from the Simons Foundation Fellows Program in Theoretical Physics for research.

As a Simons Fellow, Kimball Milton will spend the 2013-14 academic year at the Laboratoire Kastler Brossel, Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, working with noted physicists Astrid Lambrecht and Serge Reynaud and other members of their research group.

Milton will explore the physics and applications of the quantum vacuum, which is anything but empty with particles popping in and out of existence on very short time scales. This gives rise to the famous Casimir effect, in which there is an attraction between uncharged metal plates. Practical applications of this are becoming more important as nanoscale machines are developed.

"A good example of this," says Milton, "is a project the research group is pursuing called 'non-contact' gears. The idea is that in a nano-machine, if the parts touch each other, they will stick together and ruin the machine. This is largely due to the Casimir effect we are studying. But, what if you make a machine with moving parts that never touch each other? A gear could, in principle, be designed so the teeth never touch, but torque is communicated from one toothed wheel to another by the quantum vacuum force, another aspect of the Casimir effect.

"We have written several papers on this idea, and there is support for it," remarks Milton. "Since the group in Paris is more practically oriented, I think we will be able to come up with a practical design for a machine using the vacuum itself as the 'working fluid'."

Provided by University of Oklahoma

This Phys.org Science News Wire page contains a press release issued by an organization mentioned above and is provided to you “as is” with little or no review from Phys.Org staff.

More news stories

Architects to hatch Ecocapsule as low-energy house

Where people call home depends on varied factors, from poverty level to personal philosophy to vanity to community pressure. Ecocapsule appears to be the result of special factors, a team of architects applying ...

Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

Many animals feed on seeds, acorns or nuts. The common feature of these are that they have shells and there is no direct way to know what's inside. How do the animals know how much and what quality of food ...

German woman, 65, gives birth to quadruplets

A 65-year-old teacher from Berlin has given birth to quadruplets after a pregnancy that was widely criticized by medical professionals because of her age, RTL television said Saturday.